[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 50 Final 2015/08/02,
The final epilogue to "Jing Bi-rok" is an extended speech made by Seong-ryong, not directed to anyone in particular except the viewer, where he exhorts us to continue the struggle. It's a fitting epilogue to a drama that doesn't really end. Yes, the war ends- with a final battle the Japanese threat to the Korean peninsula is eliminated once and for all. But anyone who's been paying attention so far knows that "Jing Bi-rok" was never about the war- it was about the dysfunction that made the war possible. And that dysfunction yet remains,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 49 2015/08/01,
The war starts to come to an end, not with a bang, but a whimper. Really, the entirity of the Myeongnyang battle is completed within about ten minutes. Lee Soon-shin shows up, reassures the men that they're not all completely doomed, then they come up with a plan, they execute the plan, and just like that the Japanese invasion plan is once again completely tattered. With no fallback options the Japanese just fall back into complete despair,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 48 2015/07/26,
We learn this episode, quite predictably, that bravado is no substitute for competence. We don't see that much of the naval battle, but what we do see indicates a complete rout on the part of the Japanese. There's nothing standing between them and the rest of Korea. The situation's so bad that when the Chinese show up King Seonjo is actually glad to see them- all previous disputes now being forgiven. Unfortunately, that's probably not going to be enough here,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 47 2015/07/25,
Well, it's finally happened. After forty plus episodes of King Seonjo being a generally ineffectual leader, his insecurities finally get the best of him. King Seonjo makes an obviously terrible decision based on the self-serving advice of a minority of his advisors and from here, it's only going to get worse. What really stands out about the situation is just how ridiculous it is- even the Japanese seem to be in complete disbelief as to the scale of their good luck here. Not that this in any way weakens their resolve,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 46 2015/07/19,
The story in "Jing Bi-rok" is quickly catching up with the more well-known parts of history. King Seonjo hasn't quite completely destroyed the backbone of the Korean military just yet, but he's working on it. It's sad watching Seong-ryong do his best to try and move the political edge of the story back into coherent sensible territory, knowing that he's doomed to fail. In this way King Seonjo is something of a tragic figure, too heavily mired in his own paranoia to realize that the purges have gone too far and are only making Korea more vulnerable,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 45 2015/07/18,
Seong-ryong has tried to step into the role of conflict resolution- and it's not really working out all that well. The main issue is that while ministers have very fervent discussions about maybe doing something in the immediate future, meanwhile, people are still being brutalized out in the torture yard. The year is 1596 and this is still the best solution anybody can come up with to internal problems. At this rate it seems like the Japanese are going to invade again because the Koreans have learned absolutely nothing from the awful early times of the war,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 44 2015/07/12,
It really is uncanny how, every time the focus shifts back to internal politics, most of the characters straight up seem to forget the fact that they're in the middle of a war. In all fairness it has been a while since the war actually seemed important, especially since it seems like peace is just around the corner. Of course peace has seemed to be around the corner for several episodes now and, once again, we know that once peace does show up it's not actually going to be permanent,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 43 2015/07/11,
I really do wish I had some idea how the Japanese view the invasion of Korea. Often in "Jing Bi-rok" I feel like the Japanese are being treated as unreasonably evil. And yet at the same time everything that happens is based on real events, and it's obvious that whatever talk of surrender is being floated around now, the Japanese do manage another invasion in the near future, and this invasion almost certainly would have destroyed the Korean state if not for Yi Sun-shin,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 42 2015/07/05,
We start off with Lee Soon-shin showing how to actually inspire confidence among the common people- by thanking them. No, really, that's the main important part. Lee Soon-shin understands that the only reason he has an army at all is because the common people of Korea are offering him his support. Granted, they're offering their support so that Lee Soon-shin can protect them from the Japanese invaders but even so. Lee Soon-shin doesn't patronize the common people like King Seonjo does. The admiral genuinely doesn't seem to be that pretentious,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 41 2015/07/04,
The opening is a fairly good representation of the main political conflict right now. Prince Gwanghae behaves like an actual leader, carefully considering the advice of his subordinates, but ultimately deciding that difficult situations necesitate risk-taking. And as usual he has to run all this past his dopey dad King Seonjo, who always puts the considerations of the people first, even when in the long-term being well-liked is a matter of demonstating competence, not empathy,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 40 2015/06/28,
The language in "Jing Bi-rok" is so consistently thick that I honestly have trouble following it even in the best of times. But in terms of story structure this episode is particularly challenging. The Chinese and the Japanese both lack much presence here, so there's no villains / other civilization for us to compare to when it comes to the general dysfunction of the Korean government. Consequently, I can barely even detect a plot arc here- that much might be more obvious if I knew more about the historical context,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 39 2015/06/27,
I increasingly feel somewhat foolish for not focusing on Prince Gwanghae more in my writing on this drama. It's obvious the more we see of him that Prince Gwanghae finds this entire situation degrading and insulting, in every possible way. He's mad that the Japanese have invaded the country, he's angry that the Chinese are forcing political battles, and he's especially furious that accomplishing anything requires that Prince Gwanghae make deep serious bows to his weenie dad. As usual, King Seonjo doesn't really know what's going on,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 38 2015/06/21,
From a storytelling perspective Prince Gwanghae is in a very awkward place in "Jing Bi-rok". The main issue is just a historical one. Normally we think of Gwanghae not as a prince, but as a King. Gwanghae appears right now in "Splendid Politics", the other major historical long-form Korean drama currently airing. He's the villain. So it's a pretty odd transition to go from that to "Jing Bi-rok" and see that Gwanghae is mostly just a pawn in political games he can't actually control,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 37 2015/06/20,
Concerns about war take a back seat this episode as the bulk of "Jing Bi-rok" moves back to political maneuvering. Big words like reshuffling and abdication are thrown around- well, I'm not really sure those are the actual words. It's difficult to fully grasp everything that's going on in "Jing Bi-rok" because the vocabulary is really elaborate- even more so than a typical costume drama. I'm just glad the production team keeps defining the more obscure words for us,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 36 2015/06/14,
While the external political problems have not by any stretch of the imagination disappeared, "Jing Bi-rok" mostly returns to domestic problems this episode. And fortunately, this is a fairly hopeful stretch. Unlike the beginning portion of the drama, everyone is pretty much in agreement now that war is a serious immediate concern and that resources need to be allocated to allowing the Koreans to deal with a potential invasion on their own. Foreign armies have just caused way too many problems lately,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 35 2015/06/13,
King Seonjo once again has to have everything told to him, rather than being able to see it himself. This is a worthwhile fact to note. Aside from the occasional publicity tour even today world leaders only ever really see what their immediate subordinates want them to see. While King Seonjo knows by now that not everything he's told should necessarily be believed or trusted, at the same time, there's only so much he can do with limited information,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 34 2015/06/07,
Just prior to this episode of "Jing Bi-rok", terrestrial Korean viewers were treated to an advertisement of Kim Sang-joong in his Joseon costume extolling the importance of protecting Korea by buying local beef. I bring this up mostly as a reminder point. Frequently despairing tone notwithstanding "Jing Bi-rok" is at least on some level a patriotic story. Even if most of the characters are either incompetent or easily fooled, several of them are still genuine national heroes,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 33 2015/06/06,
Their main explicit offensive push having failed, the Japanese regroup to come up with more of a long-term strategy here- negotiation. At first glance this might seem incomprehensible. How exactly can they negotiate or compromise on an issue as loaded as the Japanese attempt to occupy the Korean peninsula for the sake of launching an attack on China? Well, from the Japanese perspective it's simple enough- they need time to come up with a new plan. But why would Korea want to negotiate on this?,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 32 2015/05/31,
With the Japanese counter-offensive comes yet another tear in Sino-Korean relations. At this point I'm wondering whether the entire rest of the drama is just going to be Seong-ryong forcefully arguing with Chinese military commanders. It would be appropriate enough- the whole problem with military alliances is that by definition there are members with differing agendas. The only reason the American-Russo alliance in World War II worked out is because American and Russian soldiers never had to be in the same place at the same time,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 31 2015/05/30,
As fun as it is to analyze "Jing Bi-rok" in a comparative context to modern events, trying to be too rational about this can get us into a confusing place. One early scene features a large group of characters darning a bunch of ropes. In a modern industrialized context, where important materials can be fabricated at factories, there's something almost absurd about troops having to create their own important stuff. But that's what total war means- not having easy access to stuff all the time,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 30 2015/05/24,
As expected, the Korean and Chinese military forces continue to butt heads over the question of proper military sovereignty. Mostly they don't actually get along that poorly except when they have mutually conflicting cross-purposes. There's not really any way to resolve the question of whether or not to execute a presumed traitor when there's just too much inherent dispute over whether or not the person in question really is a question. Of course, some form of trial would probably be more appropriate than just letting the highest ranked person around solve the problem,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 29 2015/05/23,
During the sixties and seventies, the Park Chung-hee regime strongly pushed Yi Sun-shin as a model of the truly noble quintessential Korean man- a soldier who was great because he won battles, and was unfortunately and tragically persecuted by jealous, incompetent civilian officials. I bring this up because at this point it's clear that "Jing Bi-rok" is trying to push a more nuanced interpretation of that political environment. Ironically, it would seem that the eventual paranoia regarding Yi Sun-shin wasn't actually so much a problem with Koreans or the Japanese so much as the...Chinese allies?,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 28 2015/05/17,
The near comical extent to which "Jing Bi-rok" refuses to actually show us Lee Soon-shin on screen is, I feel, rather appropriate. Very few people actually know what he looks like outside of his immediate subordinates. What's more, he's too busy doing actual fighting in the war to bother around with the usual political conflicts. Which leads to the greatest plot twist of all- this time, the Korean end of the war effort goes well, and consistently goes well, for the entire episode with no bad news,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 27 2015/05/16,
Things briefly appear to be going well. For once King Seonjo is able to see the common people in a context that doesn't imply they despise him for being a terrible leader. Look into the crowd and you'll even spot some genuine smiles. It would appear that the action in "Jing Bi-rok" has turned the corner. Then we find out that the Japanese are responding to these reversals by escalating their practices of sheer brutality,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 26 2015/05/10,
Yoo-kyeong (played by Lee Ki-yeol) is a rotten little sneak. And also a welcome addition to the cast- with all the moral ambiguities flying around everywhere it's nice to be able to point at this guy and go, you know what? This guy's a total jerk who's up to no good. Dealing with the Japanese is one thing- their intentions are fairly obvious. But Yoo-kyeong is deliberately playing up the fact that no one really knows what he wants to get whatever it is that he wants. It's probably nothing good,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 25 2015/05/09,
The good news this time is that patriotic citizen soldiers are now stepping up to do their part to fight the Japanese invasion. The bad news...is that patriotic citizen soldiers are now stepping up to do their part to fight the Japanese invasion. It's just another typical day really. Anything that seems like a step in the right direction ends up secretly being a step in the wrong direction. Why? Well, mostly because war kind of sucks,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 24 2015/05/03,
Korea's latest problem, among many, is collaboration. It actually shouldn't come off as too much of a surprise. The occasional moment of hot combat notwithstanding, from what we can tell the Japanese have been fairly good about not terrorizing the Korean peasantry. In medieval terms, the authority of a local ruler springs from his ability to protect his people from conquest. And given how poorly the invasion has been managed from the Korean perspective, it's little surprise that the Korean peasantry has concluded that they've been failed in that regard,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 23 2015/05/02,
It's a little strange how the big naval battle this episode actually comes off as kind of boring. A movie like "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" can make use of the filmic experience and dramatic license to make any kind of war scene seem really cool. But "Jing Bi-rok", with its usual emphasis on stoic, unchanging permiters, comes off far more like a vortex of strategy. Lee Soon-shin wins more because he has an actual plan than because of any inherent brilliance. If nothing else Kim Suk-hoon definitely has the stoicism down pat,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 22 2015/04/26,
In a mild departure of format Seong-ryong actually tries to solve problems himself this time, on the ground. Given the man's awkward position with the royal court at the moment it's about all he really can do. The disconnect between what's going on politically and what's been going on with the actual population has always been a major plot point in "Jing Bi-rok", and the flash here is a welcome bit of variation from the normal discouraging format,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 21 2015/04/25,
The theme this episode appears to be how war doesn't make anyone happy. The Korean leadership is angry because they've managed a temporary stalemate with no real options. The Japanese leadership is upset because given the prior pace they should have won the war by now. The Japanese military leaders are worried because there's no positive way to spin these setbacks. Yi Sun-shin is mostly doing all right because the man has an amazing sense of patience,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 20 2015/04/19,
The naval victory of the last episode hasn't solved all of Korea's problems, but at the very least it's forced Japan to reconsider their strategy. While they've been doing very well in land battles, the Japanese are faced with the rather difficult reality that they're stomping about in another country, literally surrounded by Koreans. Short of instituting martial law the Japanese can't really stop Koreans from undermining their position. And the Japanese don't actually want to enforce martial law because they don't actually want to conquer Korea. The real target is China,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 19 2015/04/18,
As the opening helpfully reminds us, again, what this war is actually about is the wishes of the people. The Koreans do not do a very good job of managing this. But the Japanese do even worse, as we early on get a shot of a rather abrupt, messy, and probably unnecessary execution. I try to give "Jing Bi-rok" credit on the racism question but that whole bit was just a tad over the top. Even if we are eventually moving to a comeuppance- knowing the overall thrust of the story doesn't make it any less awkward in the moment. Well, most of the time anyway,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 18 2015/04/12,
I don't particularly care for the political elements in "Jing Bi-rok". Partially this is because they're rather reptitive- it's not a whole lot of fun just watching King Seonjo make more bad political decisions. And on the flip side, this also makes the general proceedings immensely depressing. You don't have to be a student of history to realize that King Seonjo and his similar-minded subordinates are making a rather boneheaded mistake. Apparently having their country overrun with a foreign army isn't enough to get them to change their corporally-minded attitude,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 17 2015/04/11,
As usual the episode opens up with King Seonjo and his advisors, now in a decidedly less dignified location, once again ineffectively debating the best course of action. King Seonjo comes up with more bad ideas, and everyone else is too busy being reverent and respectful to really seriously address the fact that they've literally been driven out of their own capital. The Chinese are no help either. Fortunately, by the end of the episode someone (you can probably guess who) finally shows up with a plan to make life less terrible,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 16 2015/04/05,
There's times when it feels like this drama's title should just be "King Seonjo comes up with more bad ideas". It's becoming completely obvious at this point that the capital is going to be overrun, and that the only option available for the government is to fall back and regroup. But King Seonjo keeps trying to evade this eventuality and offer up unworkable compromises, mainly because he can't bear the symbolic idea of a king abandoning his own people,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 15 2015/04/04,
Don't let the opening scene fool you- there's very little real action here as the main important plot point is over characters deciding whether or when to run away. Which is in fact how wars are conducted in the real world. No one makes idiotic last stands for the sake of personal honor. In an actual life-or-death situation it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly which side has the upper hand, and at that point everyone, be they general or enlisted soldier, has to be alert for the best possible retreat,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 14 2015/03/29,
We take a brief break from the actual Japanese invasion to focus on the reaction of the Korean government. As expected, King Seonjo is taking the situation rather poorly. Everyone is, really. But the worst of it is knowing that none of the people in political power have any real idea of what's happening. They're learning about the invasion through information dispatches. And the biggest problem soon identifies itself not as the Japanese persay but rather mass desertion on the part of the Korean forces,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 13 2015/03/28,
I've come around to the portrayal of Hideyoshi as being a crazy madman mostly because the more I think about it, the more applicable this depiction is to anybody who tries to declare war on another country. A person pretty much has to be deranged on some level to think that it's possible to bend an entirely different culture to his personal will. To some extent it's certainly possible to accomplish this via force, but time and again history has shown such efforts to be inevitably doomed to failure,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 12 2015/03/22,
Seong-ryong appears to have lost all hope of trying to resolve the situation through meaningful diplomacy, and has shifted to reluctantly accepting that clandestine military preparations are the only hope the country has of getting through the war. King Seonjo, still refusing to acknowledge that the war is even going to happen, insists on terrorizing Seong-ryong for his impudence. On that end it's more of the same from "Jing Bi-rok". War is portrtayed as an inevitable outcome of political psychology gone wrong,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 11 2015/03/21,
We finally get some action...in the previews. Yes, we're in for yet another episode of general political dysfunctionality. King Seonjo is still chronically depressed, Hideyoshi is still putting the last touches on the invasion plan of Korea, and the Chinese continue to be about as unhelpful as possible. In all fairness they're probably not taking Hideyoshi seriously because his plan is kind of impossible. Japan couldn't even take over China several hundred years later with modern weaponry after China had been reduced to a giant opium den by Western powers. The country's just too darn big,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 10 2015/03/15,
Something exciting almost manages to happen here- I feel somewhat guilty having to state that. "Jing Bi-rok" establishes, as usual, that while all of the people with real power are just messing around with political games, the actual ordinary population is genuinely in panic mode. From their perspective, this isn't an epic adventure narrative. The possibility of invasion means the possibility of widespread death and destruction. And that's very, very bad,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 9 2015/03/14,
Technically speaking the war is at a standstill- but as countless modern examples have shown us, just because the fighting stops doesn't mean the underlying problems have gone away. The Japanese still have an army, and they still plan on taking over the world. So this is really not the best time to be thinking about executing the people who to date have shown the most foresight as to what's actually going on. San-hae, unfortunately, has decided to make politics the big priority here,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 8 2015/03/08,
What really makes Hideyoshi interesting here is, paradoxically, how very hard it is for any of the other characters to understand him. It's not just a matter of the cultural or language barrier. Hideyoshi is genuinely just kind of a weird guy. Even the other Japanese characters aren't really sure what to do with him. They just know Hideyoshi holds all the power, and is prone to having people murdered right in front of him if they say something he considers to be displeasing,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 7 2015/03/07,
Some much needed balance is struck here as "Jing Bi-rok" moves back to showing a wide variety of events that initially appear completely unrelated. My favorite of the bunch is the customs check that inevitably devolves into a claustrophobic fight scene. These days the airports and even the port authority all have pretty elaborate immigration checks. So it's pretty hard to imagine that once upon a time it was actually rather difficult to identify and apprehend random spies,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 6 2015/03/01,
All right, it's not just my imagination. At one point this episode the repetitive political arguments get so boring they even manage to put another character to sleep. Is this what "Jing Bi-rok" is trying to do? Get me to sympathize with King Seonjo's inability to properly respond to the situation by pointing out that his ministers are describing what's happening in a completely uninteresting, unegaging way? Well, mission accomplished, I guess,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 5 2015/02/28,
It's back to political vacillation as "Jing Bi-rok" spends most of the episode having officials engage in abstract arguments about the best possible foreign policy in the current situation. Interesting, most of the discussion actually revolves around what the Chinese are doing- even though the Chinese don't actually seem to present to discuss the problem. That's kind of a bad sign- lots of mistakes have been made so far, and even that should be enough to establish that the Koreans can't move forward on their own,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 4 2015/02/22,
One of the things I really like about "Jing Bi-rok" is the way it presents atmosphere. This isn't some politically correct version of sixteenth century Korea- even the obviously imaginary sequences are pretty committed to fidelity regarding the time period. In one scene King Seonjo wakes up from a bad dream and is calmed down by a woman who's not his wife. Queen Uuin (played by Hwang In-yeong) does appear in this episode- but "Jing Bi-rok" correctly notes that she has her own political situations that don't necessarily involve her husband directly,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 3 2015/02/21,
The problem with a drama having a very effective documentative historical style is that, well, sooner or later it just feels like you're stuck in school. While a normal story would just use the existing characterization to establish that Korea is headed toward disaster, "Jing Bi-rok" is stuck in extended build-up mode. King Seonjo doesn't know that he's making such huge mistakes because, for quite some time, there won't be any immediate negative consequences. The Japanese, for now, are just focusing on their hand-to-hand combat,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 2 2015/02/15,
I don't really know what to call "Jing Bi-rok" genre-wise. It's a Korean costume drama with production values typical for the genre but in execution it almost seems like...a documentary maybe? Let's take Yoo Seong-ryong (played by Kim Sang-joong). His main purpose in the story is to provide narration. As far as I can tell there are all direct quotes from the historical document on which "Jing Bi-rok" is based. Passage of time is represented here, not by camera tricks and flourishes, but by listening to Yoo Seong-ryong explain what happens next,...More
"Jing Bi-rok" Jeong Tae-woo's horse riding skills 2015/01/27, Source, Pictures revealed on the 28th show Jeong Tae-woo riding a horse in a stable position in upcoming KBS 1TV drama "Jing Bi-rok". He seems very comfortable on the horse.
According to sources, Jeong Tae-woo's outstanding athletic abilities allow him to catch up quickly on riding the horse. Not only that, he asks the riding instructor questions about the horse and tries to communicate with the horse. He tries to get friendly with the animal by petting it and talking to it whenever he can,...More
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